Should you let your dog take a few sips of coffee? This article answers “why is coffee bad for dogs?” and what actions to take to avoid the danger.
For dog lovers, it can be hard to deny their pets anything, especially something that seems harmless. Despite veterinarians advising against feeding dogs table scraps, I have met few owners (myself included) able to resist the begging stares. But there are some things that are just too dangerous to let your pets partake in, and coffee is one of those things.
Why is coffee bad for dogs? The reasons are both simple and a little complicated. Read on to find out why you shouldn’t let your dog steal a few sips of your coffee, no matter how much they beg.
Is Coffee Actually Bad For Dogs?
First of all, it’s important to address the core issue: coffee is bad for dogs. The degree to which it’s dangerous depends on the breed and size of the dog, but the American Kennel Club is clear: coffee is dangerous for any and all dogs, and if your dog does consume some coffee, they need monitoring.
The level of poisoning depends on the dose, so if your dog has just licked up some residue from the bottom of your cup of coffee, they’re probably not going to be in danger. However, if they’ve eaten coffee grounds or lapped up a significant amount of brewed coffee, you should definitely monitor them and get them to a vet if possible.
You might also find our guide on can dogs have coffee ice cream useful.
Why Is Coffee Bad For Dogs?
So why is coffee so bad for dogs when humans can enjoy it just fine? On a high level, the answer is simple: caffeine is poison for dogs. But why is it poisonous? That answer is a little more complicated.
The basic answer is that dogs don’t have the proper biology to process caffeine safely. So what happens when a dog consumes caffeine? It can have some very nasty effects, so if you’re sensitive to descriptions of dangerous symptoms in animals, you might want to skip ahead.
Since caffeine is a stimulant, some of the symptoms of caffeine toxicity or caffeine poisoning in dogs are similar to what humans might experience with a little too much coffee in the morning: their heart rate becomes elevated, leading to hyperactivity or stress reactions. As a result, your dog might pace around, startle easily, act restless or even vocalize (bark) more than usual.
A more dangerous aspect of caffeine poisoning is that the stimulant tends to raise blood pressure. In humans, this is minimal–even some people with high blood pressure conditions are still allowed to drink coffee–but in dogs, it can lead to cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), which can be dangerous indeed.
Veterinarians also explain that caffeine poisoning can lead to problems for your dog’s central nervous system. Your dog might lose control of its muscles, develop tremors, or–even more dangerously–too much caffeine could trigger seizures.
The amount of danger coffee presents for your dog depends on the amount of coffee consumed and the size of your dog. For a larger breed such as a German Shepherd or a Mastiff, a sip or two of coffee might trigger some hyperactivity but is unlikely to be fatal–whereas for a Chihuahua or a Yorkie, it could cause some more severe symptoms.
The type of coffee your dog is exposed to also makes a difference because caffeine levels can vary considerably. Coffee grounds are one of the biggest dangers because a lot of caffeine remains present in the bean even after brewing.
For brewed coffee itself, espresso is more dangerous than drip coffee because it’s more concentrated. Basically: the more intense the coffee exposure, the more likely it is to cause problems.
How To Keep Your Dog Safe
Dogs are curious creatures and definitely don’t have the awareness to stay away from things that might hurt them. Therefore, as the owner, it’s important to be vigilant and take steps to prevent your dog from getting into your coffee.
The AKC and other sources recommend training to make sure your dog doesn’t get into the trash, or–if your dog is especially persistent–wrapping spent coffee grounds in plastic before throwing them away, so they’re less likely to be eaten.
And, of course, the easiest step to take is to make sure you don’t give your dog coffee as a treat! Keep them away from your coffee cup, and offer them other treats to ensure they don’t get fixated on what they can’t have. Starbucks and other coffee shops often offer “puppuccinos,” which are tiny cups of milk foam or a little whipped cream, so your dog can feel included and get a safe treat while you enjoy your coffee.